Jason Smyth (28), a visually impaired sprinter from Derry, is officially the ‘fastest Paralympian on the planet.’ His 100m personal best (10:22) is the second fastest ever by an Irishman and he is also one of only 10 Irish men to break 21 seconds. He won T13 gold at both 100m & 200m in the 2008 Beijing and 2012 Paralympics and won his fifth Paralympic gold medal by winning the T13 100m final in Rio de Janeiro.
MY final here in Rio was at 10 past 11 in the morning and, by time I went through media, had the medal ceremony, did some more media and went through anti-doping, I actually didn't get home to the athletes’ village until a quarter to three.
That was close to 7pm at home, when my daughter Evie usually starts her bath routine before bed. I hadn't eaten since seven that morning but I didn't even get to go for food because I wanted to say ‘hello’ to my wife Elise and her before she went to bed. So I went on Skype with them for 15 minutes and said hello to everyone at home.
Evie’s only 10 and a half months so she doesn’t know what I do. There's times she'll see me on the phone and grab it and look behind it, to see where I am!
The BBC were up at the house the day of my final so she'd seen me on the TV and apparently said 'Daddy! Daddy!’ a lot that day. Things like that are quite cute, but you're not there to appreciate them which can be quite difficult too. When they're that small everything changes so quickly.
My wife sent me a text the night before my final saying 'is there any chance you could make that gap a little bit bigger? My heart was in my mouth for the first time!' But that shows the standard of Paralympics now, it’s moving on all the time and you have to move on yourself.
Life's very different now to what it was when I won in London four years ago when it was all about me. I was engaged at that stage but life was selfish really. Everything I did was about me and my training.
Now I'm married and a dad, and while there's still that aspect of having to be selfish about training, having my daughter changes everything. Your mind-set changes, your perspective changes and I think the success here is, in some way, even more meaningful to me because you've got that extra support at home. One day your children will start looking up to you so, hopefully, one day she'll be saying 'my daddy used to do this!' and I’ll have set a good example for her as she gets older.
I didn’t do much celebrating here because Michael McKillop, my roommate, still had to race. If he’s racing the next day he calls the shots. We’ve a great understanding. I say 'hey Mick, when do you want to go to bed, what time do you want lights out?’ We do that for each other because we respect what each other needs and wants and we know what it takes. If he wants me to shut up then I’ll do that too!
The night before his final we were out on the balcony chilling out and talking to a few people for a bit and he stuck on a movie. The night before my final there was no movie because I raced the evening beforehand and, by the time I got back and showered, it was nearly midnight and I was up at 6:45 the next morning to get back down to the track. So there’s been no celebrating so far. I just went as far as getting a free McDonalds in the athletes’ village. I'm not even a McDonald's fan but it was just for the sake of having it. I had a quarter-pounder with chips and went back for a McFlurry!
To be honest the last four years have been difficult. I haven't kicked on the way I did in the run-up to London. I'd a lot of knock-backs. Every time I took a step forward I took another back. I hadn’t the consistency last Winter that I had in the run-up to London so, this year, there was a lot more riding on the line here. To feel I've done what was expected of me, to let it go and start thinking about Tokyo 2020 already is great. The World Championships are in London next year and I really believe it will be incredible. Brazil’s been incredible but London's been the best Paralympics so far.
We'd normally never have that sort of crowds at World Championships but there’ll be such an opportunity for friends and family to see it come and see it. Some of them already have tickets! I have the best part of a week now to do whatever I want at the Paralympics which is very unusual. You're here to take care of business, that's the first thing on your mind. Usually I'm racing at the start and the end of the Games so I race, get back into my zone and then race again but, with only the 100m in my category now, this time I can actually enjoy where I am! I was able to enjoy going down to watch Michael with no worries for a start.
This is my third Paralympics Games and I've never before got to go to any other sports so there's a great opportunity now for myself and Michael to go and enjoy some other events before the team arrives back in Ireland on September 21.
Jason Smyth (28), a visually impaired sprinter from Derry, is officially the ‘fastest Paralympian on the planet.’ He won T13 gold at both 100m & 200m in the 2008 Beijing and 2012 Paralympics and aims to retain his 100m title at the Rio Paralympics
His 100m personal best (10:22) is the second fastest ever by an Irishman and he is also one of only 10 Irish men to break 21 seconds. He missed the A qualification standard for the 2012 London Olympics by just four hundredths of a second and has set himself the same ‘double’ target for Rio.
Jason is an Allianz sports and brand ambassador and has been writing a monthly blog throughout the build-up to the 2016 Paralympic Games. Allianz is an official partner to Paralympics Ireland and global partner to the International Paralympics Committee (IPC).
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